Recruitment of African-American pre-adolescent girls into an obesity prevention trial: The GEMS pilot studies

Mary Story, Nancy E. Sherwood, Eva Obarzanek, Bettina M. Beech, Janice C. Baranowski, Nikko S. Thompson, Ayisha S. Owens, Megan Mitchell, James Rochon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Objective: The objective of this report is to describe the methods used to recruit 8- to 10-year-old African-American girls into four 12-week randomized controlled pilot studies on obesity prevention. Design: The Girls health Enrichment Multi-site Study (GEMS) involved 4 field centers which independently developed and tested interventions designed to prevent excess weight gain in African-American girls. Each field center developed its own recruitment plan, but used a standardized recruitment reporting form. The goal was to recruit 40-60 girls, depending on the center. Measures: Recruitment yields were computed at each site. Socio-demographic data and weight status were collected for 210 African-American girls who were randomized into the study, as well as for their parents/caregivers. Data were collected on the sources from which participants heard about the study, and the reasons for their interest in the project. Results: The 4 field centers used multiple, but different, recruitment strategies. The most commonly used approaches were mailings, flyers, radio announcements, and group presentations. Caregivers were most likely to hear about the program from the radio (29%), a flyer from the school (23%), or from their child (18%). Among caregivers, the most common reasons for participating were: interest in health (56%), interest in diet/health (51%), and believing the program would be fun for their child (46%). The most frequent reason given by girls was that the program sounded like fun (70%). Three of the 4 field centers met their recruitment target goals. Conclusions: The GEMS experience demonstrates the feasibility of recruiting and enrolling African-American girls in short-term intervention studies of behavior change. The multiple recruitment strategies, which included developing trusting relationships in the respective communities, were considered critical to the success of recruitment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S1-78-S1-87
JournalEthnicity and Disease
Issue number1 SUPPL. 1
StatePublished - Dec 2003


  • African-American
  • Enrollment
  • Obesity
  • Pre-adolescent girls
  • Recruitment


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